Wesley Longhofer - Emory University, Goizueta Business School. Atlanta, GA, US

Wesley Longhofer Wesley Longhofer

Assistant Professor of Organization & Management | Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Atlanta, GA, US

The impact of corporate vs. independent foundations

The impact of corporate vs. independent foundations 2018-07-25
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Wesley Longhofer Peter Roberts

Debate continues as to whether corporate or independent foundations are more impactful, despite the shared interest in supporting charitable services. In research from Justin Koushyar, doctoral candidate in organization and management (2017), Wesley Longhofer, assistant professor of organization and management, and Peter Roberts, professor of organization and management, the trio determines that the answer is mixed. They used data from a matched random sample of corporate and independent foundations that operated across the United States in 2005 and 2009. With deeper pockets, corporate foundations were able to raise more funds than their nonprofit counterparts. Company sponsorship of a philanthropic foundation also meant that they could operate with lower overhead. However, Koushyar, Longhofer, and Roberts found that corporate foundations are “more dispersed and less relational, and they tend to be governed by more ephemeral groups of officers and trustees.” Simply put, corporate foundations have fewer longterm attachments to the charitable organizations they support. Additionally, “market-based motivations” may influence how they give. Corporate foundations do tend to provide smaller individual grant amounts than independent foundations. These “stakeholder effects” are even more dramatic for the foundations linked to larger publicly traded companies.


A Comparative Analysis of Corporate and Independent Foundations

Notwithstanding some visible debates, systematic evidence about the implications of greater corporate involvement in the social sector is sparse. We provide some of this evidence by examining one channel of corporate influence within the nonprofit sector–company sponsorship of philanthropic foundations.